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Top 5 NBA Prospects in NCAA “March Madness” Tournament

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Top 5 NBA Prospects in NCAA Tournament

Cover
Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA Tournament is insane. The top seeds will be upset, Cinderella teams will play way past their potential, and fans everywhere will be captivated by some of the purest basketball in the entire world.

However, there is a reason that these kids play college basketball, in addition to pure love of the game: the possibility of an NBA career. Last season, there were a variety of picks whose legends and reputations tied into their performance in NCAA’s “March Madness.”

Anthony Davis, the number one overall selection, led Kentucky all the way to a championship and was crowned as the Most Valuable Player. Davis only played one season for John Calipari before taking his game to the next level for the Charlotte Bobcats.

The top picks are not always one-and-done players, however. In 2008, Steph Curry led Davidson (seeded as a ten) to the Elite 8 in his sophomore season, and was drafted seventh overall by the Golden State Warriors. After an amazing collegiate career, Curry is transitioned exceptionally well into the NBA. He is averaging 22 points and 6.6 assists per night for Golden State.

Curry’s magical run and Davis’s dominance in the title game both show the power of March Madness: no matter what you are ranked, seeded, or predicted to do, anything can happen. The tournament gives superstar players the chance to solidify themselves as lottery picks, but also gives the “Steph Curry’s” of the nation the ability to make a name for themselves on the national stage.

Here are the top five most appealing NBA prospects that are currently taking part in the Madness (Note: Nerlens Noel is the projected #1 pick, but Kentucky was excluded from the tournament).

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5. Cody Zeller - Indiana

Zeller
Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Cody Zeller of Indiana has been nothing short of spectacular this season for the Hoosiers. The young 7-footer has given Indiana (ranked as a #1 seed) 16.7 points per game and 8.1 rebounds in 2012-13. His older brother, Tyler Zeller, wound up with the Cleveland Cavaliers at last season’s draft after being selected with the 17th pick by the Dallas Mavericks.

Will Zeller’s name be among the first 20 called by David Stern next season? It seems to run in the family.

Indiana will take on #9 seeded Temple for a chance to grab a spot in the Sweet 16.

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4. Otto Porter Jr. - Georgetown

Porter
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Otto Porter Jr. did all that he could for Georgetown this season. Despite his team, which was a #2 seed, getting bounced by Florida Gulf Coast University in its first game of the tournament, Porter has solidified himself as one of the premier wing-men in the nation.

The sophomore gave the Hoyas 16.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, while leading the team to a 25-6 record. Although he will be going on out a bit of a sour note, Porter has an NBA ready game and could be a top-five pick on draft day.

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3. Marcus Smart - Oklahoma State

Smart
Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Although he is just a freshman, Marcus Smart of the Oklahoma State Cowboys has an NBA ready game. Smart has the ideal build for a PG, standing at solid 6’4”, 225 pounds, and possesses the quickness needed to compete at the next level.

In just his freshmen season, Smart dropped 15.4 points, grabbed 5.8 rebounds, and dished out 4.2 assists per game. Smart has said that he “has no idea,” whether he will enter the draft or not, but if he does forgo his sophomore season, he could be a lottery pick despite the Cowboys being upset by the #12 seeded Oregon Ducks.

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2. Shabazz Muhammad - UCLA

Muhammad
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The freshmen from UCLA will be a lottery pick despite the emerging reports that he is actually 20 years-old (he was supposedly 19). Shabazz Muhammad is a 6’6” swing-man who can play both the guard and forward spots.

He poured in 17.9 points and 5.2 rebounds this season for the Bruins, who were upset by the Golden Gophers of Minnesota in the first round of the tournament. Nonetheless, Muhammad’s NBA-ready game will surely result in his being selected in the lottery come draft day.

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1. Ben McLemore - Kanas

McLemore
Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA player that is most ready to make an impact on the next level is Ben McLemore. Physically, he is a beast. As a 6’5” shooting guard, McLemore will be matched-up right away with the league’s top scorers and defenders.

In his first year at Kansas, the freshmen scored 16.2 points per game, but did it shooting 50.5% from the field and 43% from 3-point range.

McLemore has drawn comparisons to a young LeBron James which, although those comparisons are very premature, speaks volumes to his potential.

The Jayhawks will have to get past #8 seeded North Carolina in order to advance to the Sweet 16.

Follow Thomas Duffy on Twitter @TD_Knicks for articles, news, and all things NBA.